Last Thursday, Holton held our second annual Diversity Conference. We spoke about diversity within our community through the silent movement activity and discussions on dominant fragility, cognitive dissonance and reward, blind spots and diversity of thought. Everyone also chose an “unconference” group to attend. The options included: body image, mental health, ability, appropriation vs. appreciation, understanding your culture and #MeToo. Fortunately for me, I was able to facilitate a discussion group and the ability “unconference.”
I genuinely enjoy talking and learning about diversity. Despite having done these activities before at the facilitator-training sessions, I learned so much during the conference. From what I have heard from my peers, most people (who were respectful enough to come) had only positive feedback and enjoyed this year’s conference more than last year’s.
Some of the most important takeaways that I hope students, including me, remember include:
1. Dominant fragility
- A person who grows up with dominance and privilege will attempt to maintain that state of cognitive reward.
- Any reaction to a conversation is a valid reaction. If people feel uneasy or uncomfortable, that can be a good sign as it shows they are learning something new. Push them further to let their minds travel to cognitive dissonance.
2. Cognitive dissonance
- It’s not just me, nor is it just people of color or the female gender.
- Cognitive dissonance is a state of mind; it comes and goes. Some people live in it more than others, but anyone can feel it.
- “The world doesn’t see me in the way I see myself.”
3. Blind spots
- EVERYONE has them.
- Once we realize them, we can look out for them more.
- One situation may apply to more than one blind spot (ex: while exploring the topic of women’s suffrage, I began to think about what happened to women of color. While I acknowledged the gender and race aspect, I failed to fully acknowledge age, religion, sexuality and socio-economic status playing as factors that most likely had an immense effect on the suffrage movement).
4. Sources of News
- Different articles about the same topic can present information so differently that the message itself gets changed.
- Looking to a variety of news sources helps one understand the true story.
5. Having Controversial Discussions
- Respect! Respect the person you are speaking with, his/her views, and his/her reactions to what you say.
- Form open-ended, non-accusatory questions.
- Push people to reflect on the thoughts they presented to you so that they see whether or not they genuinely meant what they said.
I hope people enjoyed and learned from the conference. Everyone who worked on it did a phenomenal job, and I am so proud to go to Holton because we assign great importance to these discussions and topics. I wish to help carry on these discussions in our classrooms and personal lives. I also hope that people dedicate more time to learn about current events aside from the mainstream news. Realizing that we all have blind spots and varying opinions will help us understand the information presented to us and how to effectively speak about it. We are already excited to plan next year’s conference!